FLY ME

May 19, 2018


I really enjoy traveling, that is BEING THERE.  Getting there is another story.  In the Southeastern portion of the United States you generally have to go through Atlanta to reach your final destination.  It’s just a fact of life.   If we take a quick look at ATL for the month of January 2018, we see the following statistics:

Please remember, all passengers including crew must go through screening (TSA) before boarding their flight.  That means EVERYONE.   Kennedy, Chicago, LAX, Miami, etc. operates in a similar fashion.  I have waited in the TSA line at ATL for close to two (2) hours then, take off your shoes, belt, empty your pockets, remove your glasses, watch, put your laptop and cell phone face up on top of all luggage, etc. etc.   People who fly on a regular basis get use to it but it’s always a hassle.  There is another way, maybe expensive but more and more business travelers are discovering and using business aircraft.

BUSINESS AIRCRAFT:

The primary driver of business aircraft use today is scheduling flexibility and reduction in the complexities relative to travel. In fact, according to the most recent study of general aviation trends by the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), passengers indicated, on average, that more than fifty percent (50%) of the business aircraft flights taken enable the business traveler to keep schedules they otherwise could not meet efficiently using scheduled commercial flights.

This past Friday, Aviation International News (AIN) published its annual Charter Market Report titled, “The industry is climbing.” It reported private charters in the U.S. increased ten percent (10%) in the number of flights (543,449 compared with 493,431) and twelve- point seven percent (12.7%) in flight hours (765,196 compared with 679,018) during the first half of 2017.

With that type of good news, perhaps it’s not surprising that companies such as Wheels Up, VistaJet, Victor, Stellar Aero Labs and JetSmarter, which all operate in that space, collectively announced nearly four hundred ($400) million in new investments just since the start of the summer. “People have business to do and you can’t-do it flying commercially,” says Kenny Dichter, the CEO and co-founder of Wheels Up, which uses the King Air 350i to help its customers get to those smaller airports that are hard to reach. At the other end of the charter and jet card and program membership spectrum, VistaJet has made its mark with luxury-laden long-range jets catering to Ultra High Net Worth families and global executives who hop between Continents like you and I cross the street.

DELTA IS READY WHEN YOUR ARE:

True but there are disadvantages to flying commercial.

  • The loss of time is a major issue on commercial flights. From the long lines, potential layovers and the often-longer trip to the airport as well as having to check in early. This can easily add up to losing hours upon hours of time that could have been spent more productively. In addition, security delays can not only be a huge hassle, they can cost more time as well.
  • Passengers have to find a flight that fits in with their schedule or can be forced to alter their calendar to fit in with the airlines.
  • With crowded seating, there is little space to conduct business and even less privacy. If you had hoped to conduct a meeting or negotiate a deal in private, other passengers and crew are likely to overhear those conversations.
  • Commercial airlines offer little in the way of amenities. Today, food and beverages options rarely include much more than a drink and a bag of pretzels. First class is better, but you still get what you get.
  • The risk of lost luggage with passengers separated from their bags is another issue when flying commercially.

ADVANTAGES OF PRIVATE BUSINESS TRAVEL:

  • You’ll avoid the inconvenience of the liquid bans that come with flying commercially.
  • You can travel with special belongings, business samples, sports gear, instruments or even bring your pet into the cabin if you so choose.
  • You’ll not only have more time to conduct business, you’ll have more time to spend with your family and friends by reducing the hours you spend traveling.
  • Flying on a private jet projects an image of success. You’ll be seen as an individual or organization that is well-run, efficient and can afford to fly privately.
  • A light commercial jet which can seat five to six (5- 6) people, will cost around $2,000 per hour, larger aircraft which can hold more people and fly further cost more.
  • With a private jet you can fly out of an airport that is much closer to your home or business location, allowing you to skip the traffic, bypass security lines and those frequent delays that commercial airlines often incur.
  • Once on your flight, you’ll find the ultimate in exceptional customer service with individualized attention and the treatment you deserve.
  • Private planes offer luxury furnishings and plenty of space to conduct private business. Order your preferred food and drinks ahead of time, and you can even enjoy your favorite meal on the flight if you desire.

CONCLUSIONS:

Most of us, myself included, cannot afford private travel, business or otherwise, but more and more businesses are investigating private business travel for very busy executives.  I do not mean leasing, I mean scheduling “a ride” from a company such as mentioned earlier in this post.  In Chattanooga, we have HESS Jet. The service area for HESS Jet may be seen as follows:

An example of the aircraft you can schedule is shown below.  It is a four-seat, twin engine small jet capable of servicing the eastern half of the United States.   If you need an aircraft with larger seating capacity, that can be arranged also.

Now take a look at the interior of the aircraft above.  Think you could get use to this?  Most business men and women would definitely say yes.

I know several people who charter business aircraft during SEC football season.  They, of course, split the costs and really travel in style.  This is becoming more and more common in our country today.  Maybe something to think about.

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Several of the following comments were taken from the Washington Free Beacon.

If you have been reading my posts you know that just about all involve the STEM professions, travel, salary levels for engineers, book reviews, restaurant reviews, etc etc.  In other words—I usually do NOT do political.  Politicians are fascinating people because ALL people are fascinating.  We all have a story to tell.  OK, with that being the case, I could not resist this time. Take a look.

Senate increases budget by forty-eight ($48) million, salaries by twelve ($12) million. That was the sub-title to the Washington Free Beacon article relative to the Omnibus Spending Bill just signed by President Trump. How much is $1.3 trillion dollars?  ANSWER:  It’s a million million. It’s a thousand billion. It’s a one followed by 12 zeros. 1,000,000,000,000.  The following digital photograph represents one billion dollars.

The next digital represents a trillion dollars.

Please notice the little guy, at the left of the stack.

You ready for this?

The Senate increased its total salaries of officers and employees by $12.6 million in the 2,232-page bill that lawmakers had fewer than forty-eight (48) hours to read and vote on. The bill avoids a government shutdown that would take place at midnight on Friday.

Aside from giving their own institutions a bonus, the omnibus bill also gives away millions to prevent “elderly falls,” promote breastfeeding, and fight “excessive alcohol use.”

The legislation increases the Senate budget to $919.9 million, up $48.8 million from fiscal year 2017, according to the congressional summary of the bill.

  • “The increase provides funding necessary for critical modernization and upgrades of the Senate financial management system and investments in IT security,” the summary states.
  • Salaries of staffers in the Senate are also set for an increase. Division Iof the legislation breaks down the total salaries of officers and employees, which are being raised from $182 million in 2017 to $194.8 million in the final bill, an increase of $12.58 million.
  • The Senate also increased its expense account, as expense allowances are going from $177,000 to $192,000, an increase of $15,000.
  • Committee offices got an increase of $22.9 million in salaries, from $181.5 million in 2017 to $204.4 million in the final bill.
  • Another $15 million goes to study “high obesity counties” and an increase of $5 million for the CDC program that seeks to “address obesity in counties” by leveraging “the community extension services provided by land grant universities who are mandated to translate science into practical action and promote healthy lifestyles.”
  • The bill also spends $2.05 million to prevent “elderly falls” and $8 million in the form of “breastfeeding grants.”
  • The legislation also mandatesthe Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to improve “wine label accuracy.”

I’m sure the bill does some very good things one being added money for our armed forces.  We have experienced in 2017 a terrible statistic—the number of casualties resulting from training our men and women in uniform exceeded the number of casualties in combat.  This is largely due to lack of funding for equipment maintenance and training.

I know or at least suspect, there is a great deal of behind-the-scenes activity on the part of each congressman and senator required for preparation prior to each legislative session.  Let’s take a look at the number of scheduled sessions over the past few years. Here are the number of legislative days for the House and Senate each year in recent history:

  • 2016: 131 in the House, 165 in the Senate.
  • 2015: 157 in the House, 168 in the Senate.
  • 2014: 135 in the House, 136 in the Senate.
  • 2013: 159 in the House, 156 in the Senate.
  • 2012: 153 in the House, 153 in the Senate.
  • 2011: 175 in the House, 170 in the Senate.
  • 2010: 127 in the House, 158 in the Senate.
  • 2009: 159 in the House, 191 in the Senate.
  • 2008: 119 in the House, 184 in the Senate.
  • 2007: 164 in the House, 190 in the Senate.
  • 2006: 101 in the House, 138 in the Senate.
  • 2005: 120 in the House, 159 in the Senate.
  • 2004: 110 in the House, 133 in the Senate.
  • 2003: 133 in the House, 167 in the Senate.
  • 2002: 123 in the House, 149 in the Senate.
  • 2001: 143 in the House, 173 in the Senate.

An “unhappy” President Donald Trump signed the $1.3 trillion spending bill into law Friday, his second about-face in twenty-four (24) hours on the measure to keep the government open.

The president said he approved the legislation to fund the government through September for national security reasons, as it authorizes a major increase in military spending that he supports. But he stressed that he did so reluctantly.

Trump slammed the rushed process to pass the more than 2,200-page bill released only Wednesday. Standing near the pile of documents, the president said he was “disappointed” in the legislation and would “never sign another bill like this again.”

So much for draining the swamp. We are good through September of this year and then we start all over again.  ALL OVER AGAIN!

DODD-FRANK

December 26, 2016


WARNING—This might be a little, if not a lot, boring to some of you maybe most of you.

O.K., with that said, what is the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act? I hear many people indicate the restrictions placed on banks, both national and regional remain THE reason for significantly tight credit since its passage in 2010.   Let’s take a look at the Act, the basics and how bankers feel it is crimping their style.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act is a massive piece of financial reform legislation passed by the Obama administration in 2010 as a response to the financial crisis of 2008.  There were early signs of distress relative to the impending crisis: by 2004, U.S. homeownership had peaked at seventy percent (70%); no one was interested in buying or eating more candy. Then, during the last quarter of 2005, home prices started to fall, which led to a forty percent 940%) decline in the U.S. Home Construction Index during 2006. Not only were new homes being affected, but many subprime borrowers now could not withstand the higher interest rates and they started defaulting on their loans.  This caused 2007 to start with bad news from multiple sources. Every month, one subprime lender or another was filing for bankruptcy. During February and March 2007, more than twenty-five (25) subprime lenders filed for bankruptcy, which was enough to start the tide. In April, well-known New Century Financial also filed for bankruptcy.   According to 2007 news reports, financial firms and hedge funds owned more than one trillion ($1 T) in securities backed by these now-failing subprime mortgages – enough to start a global financial tsunami if more subprime borrowers started defaulting. By June, Bear Stearns stopped redemptions in two of its hedge funds and Merrill Lynch seized $800 million in assets from two Bear Stearns hedge funds. But even this large move was only a small affair in comparison to what was to happen in the months ahead.

1.) In simple terms, Dodd-Frank is a law that places major regulations on the financial industry. It grew out of the Great Recession with the intention of preventing another collapse of a major financial institution like Lehman Brothers.

2.) One of the main goals of the Dodd-Frank act is to have banks subjected to a number of regulations along with the possibility of being broken up if any of them are determined to be “too big to fail.”

3.)  To accomplish the goal stated in item number two above, the act created the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC). It looks out for risks that affect the entire financial industry. The Council is chaired by the Treasury Secretary, and has nine members including the Federal Reserve, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or CFPA. It also oversees non-bank financial firms like hedge funds. If any of the banks gets too big in the council’s determination, they could be regulated by the Federal Reserve, which can ask a bank to increase its reserve requirement—the money it has ‘saved up’ and is not using for lending or business costs.

4.) Under Dodd-Frank, banks are also required to have plans for a quick and orderly shutdown in the event that the bank becomes insolvent—or runs out of money.

5.)  The Volcker Rule is part of Dodd-Frank and prohibits banks from owning, investing, or sponsoring hedge funds, private equity funds, or any proprietary trading operations for their own profit.  The Volcker Rule does allow some trading when it’s necessary for the bank to run its business. For example, banks can engage in currency trading to offset their own holdings in a foreign currency.

There are many financial types that see real issues with Dodd-Frank.  These are as follows:

  • Codifies Too-Big-to-Fail. Rather than eliminating the market’s expectation that certain big financial firms are too big to fail, Dodd-Frank creates an explicit set of too-big-to-fail entities—those selected by the Financial Stability Oversight Council for special regulation by the Fed.
  • Threatens Small Businesses.Dodd-Frank’s complex web of regulations favors large financial firms that can afford the lawyers to analyze them. New requirements will be disproportionately costly for small banks and small credit rating agencies. Dodd-Frank’s complex derivatives rules will further concentrate an already concentrated industry. (I can attest to this fact.  My company has been trying to obtain financing for a local CNG project for over two years.  Just now getting that financing in place.  We are not asking for millions of dollars but even that has come under intense scrutiny.)
  • Hurts Retail Investors.Dodd-Frank gives the Securities and Exchange Commission a new set of responsibilities that distracts it from its core mission. New rules impose costs on nonfinancial companies that will be passed on to investors and consumers. Commission resources will be diverted to protecting the wealthiest investors.
  • Consumer “Protections” Harm Consumers. The consumer financial products regulator established by Dodd-Frank, rather than helping consumers, threatens to raise the prices consumers pay and limit the products, services, and providers available to help them achieve their financial objectives. Various rules, such as price controls on banks’ debit charge fees to merchants, are likely to increase bank fees for consumers and drive low-income customers away from basic banking services.
  • Sows the Seeds for the Next Financial Crisis. Dodd-Frank forces complex derivatives into clearinghouses. These entities will be large, difficult to manage safely, and very deeply connected with the rest of the financial markets. If one of these clearinghouses runs into trouble, the economic ramifications could be massive, which means the government will be tempted to engineer a bailout.
  • Creates New Unaccountable Bureaucracies. Dodd-Frank establishes several new bureaucracies, including consumer protection, data management, and stability oversight agencies that operate with limited transparency and little accountability to the American people.
  • More Power for Failed Regulators. Despite their past regulatory failures, Dodd-Frank gives the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Fed broad new regulatory powers.
  • Unchecked Government Power to Seize Firms. Dodd-Frank allows the government to sidestep bankruptcy and instead seize and liquidate companies. Vague criteria define which companies may be seized, and there is limited judicial oversight of the whole process. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation might use the process to prop up failing firms and to favor particular creditors.
  • Interferes with Basic Market Functions. The Volcker Rule, which prohibits banks from engaging in proprietary trading and limits their investments in hedge funds and other private funds, is proving to be difficult to implement. It will be more difficult to comply with and will interfere with the functioning of the market.
  • Replaces Market Monitoring with Regulatory Monitoring. Dodd-Frank relies on the hope that regulators that failed before and during the last crisis will be able to spot problems in the future. For example, Dodd-Frank gives broad new systemic risk oversight responsibilities to the Fed and the Financial Stability Oversight Council. It also raises the deposit insurance cap to $250,000, which will discourage large depositors from monitoring banks and correspondingly increase the likelihood of regulatory intervention.

If you aren’t asleep by now I can’t help you.  This is the long and short of the Dodd-Frank Act.  I would say reform was needed to reign in banks and financial firms that had grossly overstepped their mandates.  GREED was their goal.  They achieved that goal for a short period of time with consequences that have shaken our country and global finance.  Please not that now one banker, insurance company, hedge fund manager or other individual was charged with criminal activity.  Heavy fines were assigned but no one is now doing time for their misdeeds.

 


WARNING:  This will probably be very boring to most of you but important if you are in manufacturing.  Consider this a public service announcement.

OK, first let us take a look at the following definition:

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is an agency of the United States Department of Labor. Congress established the agency under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which President Richard M. Nixon signed into law on December 29, 1970.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, more commonly known by its acronym OSHA, is responsible for protecting worker health and safety in the United States. Congress created OSHA in 1971 following its passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to ensure safe and healthy working conditions for workers by enforcing workplace laws and standards and also by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.  Congress enacted the OSH Act in response to annual workplace accidents that resulted in 14,000 worker deaths and 2.5 million disabled workers annually. Since its inception, OSHA has cut the work-fatality rate by more than half, and it has significantly reduced the overall injury and illness rates in industries where OSHA has concentrated its attention, such as textiles and excavation. The administrator for OSHA is the Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health; the position answers to the Secretary of Labor, a member of the Cabinet of the United States.

You know how the FED works, laws are passed WITH penalties for violations.    OSHA works in the same fashion.  As of August 1, 2016, the dollar amounts for maximum civil penalties have increased considerably.  If you are an employer and violate an OSHA regulation you can be fined.  Congress has not raised the dollar figures since 1990, but last year they included a provision in budget legislation allowing all federal agencies to increase fines and penalties to match inflation.  That twenty-six (26) year combination inflation rate total of seventy-eight percent (78%) was used to establish new amounts announced by OSHA on 1 July of this year.   The new amounts will apply only to civil penalties after 1 August 2016 for associated violations that occurred after November 2, 2015, the date of enactment of the budget legislation.

In addition to the catch-up adjustment this year, the bill allows OSHA to continue raising fines annually to keep pace with inflation. While most statute violation penalties have been inflated every four years, OSHA and a few other federal agencies were previously exempted from raising their fines under the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act. Moving forward, businesses can expect to see these annual increases by no later than January 15 of each year. The goal of this new change is to keep the fines up-to-date as a relevant penalty.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that administrative civil penalties like those OSHA imposes on employers “are intended to punish, and label defendants wrongdoers”, which means they could be found to fall under the ex post facto ban. NOTE: The definition of ex post facto is as follows:

A law that makes illegal an act that was legal when committed, increases the penalties for an infraction after it has been committed, or changes the rules of evidence to make conviction easier. The Constitution prohibits the making of ex post facto law.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition

To illustrate the impact of this change, we see the following:

  • Other-than-serious violation, from $7,000 to $12,471
  • Serious violation, from $7,000 to $12,471
  • Repeat violation, from $70,000 to $124,709
  • Willful violation, from $70,000 to $124,000
  • Failure to abate violation, from $7,000 to $12,741 per day.
  • Violation of a posting requirement from $7.000 to $12,471

If you manufacturer a product and have responsibility for safety in your facility, please take a look at all changes to the OSHA document and make sure you are aware of additional penalties.  I have no idea as to why the FED decided to “catch up” with increases being other than incremental.  I suppose they do it because they can do it.

US INFRASTRUCTURE REPORT

October 2, 2016


Information for this post came from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Every family, every community and every business needs infrastructure to thrive. Infrastructure encompasses your local water main and the Hoover Dam; the power lines connected to your house and the electrical grid spanning the U.S.; and the street in front of your home and the national highway system.

Once every four years, America’s civil engineers provide a comprehensive assessment of the nation’s major infrastructure categories in ASCE’s Report Card for America’s Infrastructure Report Card.  Using a simple A to F school report card format, the Report Card provides a comprehensive assessment of current infrastructure conditions and needs, both assigning grades and making recommendations for how to raise the grades. An Advisory Council of ASCE members assigns the grades according to the following eight criteria: capacity, condition, funding, future need, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience, and innovation. Since 1998, the grades have been near failing, averaging only Ds, due to delayed maintenance and underinvestment across most categories.  Now the 2013 Report Card grades are in, and America’s cumulative GPA for infrastructure rose slightly to a D+. The grades in 2013 ranged from a high of B- for solid waste to a low of D- for inland waterways and levees. Solid waste, drinking water, wastewater, roads, and bridges all saw incremental improvements, and rail jumped from a C- to a C+. No categories saw a decline in grade this year.

Let’s take a quick look at the grades for each of the categories ASCE has provided.  You will not be impressed.  Our U.S. Congress has done what they always do—put their reelection first and the country dead last.

overall-report-card

The table below provides the estimated cumulative investment needs by infrastructure category based on current trends extended to the year 2020 (dollars in $2010 billions). Categories that are not shaded rely on data from ASCE’s Failure to Act series.

funding-table

The grades in the 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure are a comprehensive assessment of current infrastructure conditions across America. It is important to note that these infrastructure conditions have impacts on our economy as well.

In 2011, ASCE commissioned a series of economic reports called Failure to Act to provide an objective analysis of the economic implications for the United States of current investment trends in key infrastructure sectors. These first-of-a-kind reports were prepared for ASCE by the Economic Development Research Group of Boston to answer this central question:

What is the value to America’s economy in the long term if we invest in our infrastructure today?

The results of the Failure to Act series focus on:

Together, these reports cover 9 of the 16 categories addressed by the Report Card for America’s Infrastructure.

Analyzing current investment trends for each infrastructure sector, the report conveys the economic impacts in terms of change in GDP, household income, employment, and exports in the years 2020 and 2040. In short, investing in infrastructure is an engine for long-term economic growth, increasing GDP, employment, household income, and exports. The reverse is also true – without investing, infrastructure can become a drag on the economy.

I would like to concentrate on just two of the categories ASCE has given us, Water and Environment and Transportation.  Obviously, every citizen of this country uses these government-provided services every day.  Our lives are directly affected by the viability of these two categories.

WATER AND ENVIRONMENT:

Dams: Dams again earned a grade of D. The average age of the 84,000 dams in the country is 52 years old. The nation’s dams are aging and the number of high-hazard dams is on the rise. Many of these dams were built as low-hazard dams protecting undeveloped agricultural land. However, with an increasing population and greater development below dams, the overall number of high-hazard dams continues to increase, to nearly 14,000 in 2012. The number of deficient dams is currently more than 4,000. The Association of State Dam Safety Officials estimates that it will require an investment of $21 billion to repair these aging, yet critical, high-hazard dams.

Drinking Water: The grade for drinking water improved slightly to a D. At the dawn of the 21st century, much of our drinking water infrastructure is nearing the end of its useful life. There are an estimated 240,000 water main breaks per year in the United States. Assuming every pipe would need to be replaced, the cost over the coming decades could reach more than $1 trillion, according to the American Water Works Association (AWWA). The quality of drinking water in the United States remains universally high, however. Even though pipes and mains are frequently more than 100 years old and in need of replacement, outbreaks of disease attributable to drinking water are rare.

Hazardous Waste: There has been undeniable success in the cleanup of the nation’s hazardous waste and brownfields sites. However, annual funding for Superfund site cleanup is estimated to be as much as $500 million short of what is needed, and 1,280 sites remain on the National Priorities List with an unknown number of potential sites yet to be identified. More than 400,000 brownfields sites await cleanup and redevelopment. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that one in four Americans lives within three miles of a hazardous waste site. The grade for hazardous waste remained unchanged at a D.

Levees: Levees again earned a near failing grade of D- in 2013. The nation’s estimated 100,000 miles of levees can be found in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Many of these levees were originally used to protect farmland, and now are increasingly protecting developed communities. The reliability of these levees is unknown in many cases, and the country has yet to establish a National Levee Safety Program. Public safety remains at risk from these aging structures, and the cost to repair or rehabilitate these levees is roughly estimated to be $100 billion by the National Committee on Levee Safety. However, the return on investment is clear – as levees helped in the prevention of more than $141 billion in flood damages in 2011.

Solid Waste: In 2010, Americans generated 250 million tons of trash. Of that, 85 million tons were recycled or composted. This represents a 34% recycling rate, more than double the 14.5% in 1980. Per capita generation rates of waste have been steady over the past 20 years and have even begun to show signs of decline in the past several years. The grade for solid waste improved in 2013, and it earned the highest grade of B-.

Wastewater: The grade for wastewater improved slightly to a D. Capital investment needs for the nation’s wastewater and stormwater systems are estimated to total $298 billion over the next 20 years. Pipes represent the largest capital need, comprising three quarters of total needs. Fixing and expanding the pipes will address sanitary sewer overflows, combined sewer overflows, and other pipe-related issues. In recent years, capital needs for the treatment plants comprise about 15%-20% of total needs, but will likely increase due to new regulatory requirements. Stormwater needs, while growing, are still small compared with sanitary pipes and treatment plants. Since 2007, the federal government has required cities to invest more than $15 billion in new pipes, plants, and equipment to eliminate combined sewer overflows.

TRANSPORTATION:

Aviation: Despite the effects of the recent recession, commercial flights were about 33 million higher in number in 2011 than in 2000, stretching the system’s ability to meet the needs of the nation’s economy. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimates that the national cost of airport congestion and delays was almost $22 billion in 2012. If current federal funding levels are maintained, the FAA anticipates that the cost of congestion and delays to the economy will rise from $34 billion in 2020 to $63 billion by 2040. Aviation again earned a D.

Bridges: Over two hundred million trips are taken daily across deficient bridges in the nation’s 102 largest metropolitan regions. In total, one in nine of the nation’s bridges are rated as structurally deficient, while the average age of the nation’s 607,380 bridges is currently 42 years. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) estimates that to eliminate the nation’s bridge backlog by 2028, we would need to invest $20.5 billion annually, while only $12.8 billion is being spent currently. The challenge for federal, state, and local governments is to increase bridge investments by $8 billion annually to address the identified $76 billion in needs for deficient bridges across the United States. However, with the overall number of structurally deficient bridges continuing to trend downward, the grade improved to C+.

Inland Waterways: Our nation’s inland waterways and rivers are the hidden backbone of our freight network – they carry the equivalent of about 51 million truck trips each year. In many cases, the inland waterways system has not been updated since the 1950s, and more than half of the locks are over 50 years old. Barges are stopped for hours each day with unscheduled delays, preventing goods from getting to market and driving up costs. There is an average of 52 service interruptions a day throughout the system. Projects to repair and replace aging locks and dredge channels take decades to approve and complete, exacerbating the problem further. Inland waterways received a D- grade once again as conditions remain poor and investment levels remain stagnant.

Ports: This new category for 2013 debuted with a grade of C. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that more than 95% (by volume) of overseas trade produced or consumed by the United States moves through our ports. To sustain and serve a growing economy and compete internationally, our nation’s ports need to be maintained, modernized, and expanded. While port authorities and their private sector partners have planned over $46 billion in capital improvements from now until 2016, federal funding has declined for navigable waterways and landside freight connections needed to move goods to and from the ports.

Rail: Railroads are experiencing a competitive resurgence as both an energy-efficient freight transportation option and a viable city-to-city passenger service. In 2012, Amtrak recorded its highest year of ridership with 31.2 million passengers, almost doubling ridership since 2000, with growth anticipated to continue. Both freight and passenger rail have been investing heavily in their tracks, bridges, and tunnels as well as adding new capacity for freight and passengers. In 2010 alone, freight railroads renewed the rails on more than 3,100 miles of railroad track, equivalent to going coast to coast. Since 2009, capital investment from both freight and passenger railroads has exceeded $75 billion, actually increasing investment during the recession when materials prices were lower and trains ran less frequently. With high ridership and greater investment in the system, the grade for rail saw the largest improvement, moving up to a C+ in 2013.

Roads: Targeted efforts to improve conditions and significant reductions in highway fatalities resulted in a slight improvement in the roads grade to a D this year. However, forty-two percent of America’s major urban highways remain congested, costing the economy an estimated $101 billion in wasted time and fuel annually. While the conditions have improved in the near term, and federal, state, and local capital investments increased to $91 billion annually, that level of investment is insufficient and still projected to result in a decline in conditions and performance in the long term. Currently, the Federal Highway Administration estimates that $170 billion in capital investment would be needed on an annual basis to significantly improve conditions and performance.

Transit: The grade for transit remained at a D as transit agencies struggled to balance increasing ridership with declining funding. America’s public transit infrastructure plays a vital role in our economy, connecting millions of people with jobs, medical facilities, schools, shopping, and recreation, and it is critical to the one-third of Americans who do not drive cars. Unlike many U.S. infrastructure systems, the transit system is not comprehensive, as 45% of American households lack any access to transit, and millions more have inadequate service levels. Americans who do have access have increased their ridership 9.1% in the past decade, and that trend is expected to continue. Although investment in transit has also increased, deficient and deteriorating transit systems cost the U.S. economy $90 billion in 2010, as many transit agencies are struggling to maintain aging and obsolete fleets and facilities amid an economic downturn that has reduced their funding, forcing service cuts and fare increases.

CONCLUSION:

I know my readers think I’m beating up on state and federal governments, but give me a break.  Do you ever wonder what these elected officials really do?  I want to show you the top ten (10) boondoggles the Fed has deemed necessary.  Here we go.

  • THE BRIDGE TO NOWHERE: A notorious 2005 earmark authorized $452 million to build two bridges in Alaska—including one that became known as the so-called Bridge to Nowhere, which would have connected the city of Ketchikan to Gravina Island, home to only a few dozen people.
  • The Woodstock Museum: In 2007, Congress authorized a $1 million earmark to build a museum dedicated to the 1969 Woodstock concert.
  • Duplication Nation– Every year the federal government wastes at least $200 billion in duplicative federal programs, agencies, offices and initiatives.
  • The Adult Baby– We were curious to learn, in 2011, of a subculture of adults who dress, eat and otherwise behave as babies. We were further shocked to discover that some, including a man named Stanley Thornton—who was featured in a television program—had funded his infantile lifestyle by relying on disability payments from the Social Security Administration.
  • Unemployment Payouts to Millionaires–It’s not just adult babies gaming the system. In 2011, we discovered that federal unemployment benefits are being sent to the wealthy—who bilk the system out of at least $30 million each year.
  • Shrimp on a Treadmill– In 2007, the National Science Foundation committed more than $500,000 to study the mobility of shrimp by conducting experiments that involved placing the crustaceans on treadmills. (You have to love this one!!!!!!!!)
  • The RoboSquirrelSpeaking of wasteful research, in 2012, we highlighted a $325,000 study on the interaction between rattlesnakes and squirrels that made use of a robotic squirrel. (Don’t even ask.)
  • The Pentagon’s “Did Jesus die for Klingons too?” symposium–In 2012, we issued a report titled

“Department of Everything” that showed how the Department of Defense could make cuts in “non-defense” spending – spending in DOD that has nothing to do with our national defense, which we’ve estimated totals almost $68 billion. In the report, we highlighted surprising spending on beef jerky and a smartphone add to gauge caffeine intake. Our eyebrows were also raised by a strategy planning workshop for which nearly $100,000 was allocated. One of the sessions at the symposium explored the relationship between Jesus and Klingons, the famous alien species in the Star Trek series.

  • The Turtle TunnelIn 2009, a “stimulus” project for a $3.4 million wildlife “eco-passage” was greenlighted in Florida to help turtles and other wildlife cross beneath a busy road. (Don’t get me wrong—I like turtles but $3.4 million.)
  • Handouts for Pro Athletes and Team OwnersIn 2013 we sponsored a bill to end the nonprofit tax exemption for for-profit sports leagues.

Meanwhile, our roads, bridges, dams, water, etc etc seems to continue to suffer.  You get the picture.

CLINTON CASH

July 10, 2016


I m absolutely convinced the best and most enduring writers are avid readers and they know how to research a project.  That statement certainly applies to Mr. Peter Schweizer.  Schweizer includes fifty-eight (58) pages of notes used to research and document the money trail left by Secretary Hillary Clinton, former-President Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation.  These notes are categorized by chapter with each fact being numbered as presented in the body of the work.  “Clinton Cash”, written in 2015, was the eleventh book by Schweizer and serves to investigate donations made to the Clinton Foundation by foreign entities, paid speeches made by Bill and Hillary Clinton, and the Clintons’ personal enrichment after leaving the White House, in 2001. All of his works to date are non-fiction, real life; political exposes unearthing corruption in governments and institutions in our country.  Let’s take a very quick look at Mr. Schweizer’s biography.

BIOGRAPHY:

Peter Franz Schweizer, born November 24, 1964, is an American author, academic, and political consultant. He is the president of the Government Accountability Institute (GAI) and a former William J. Casey Research Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.  He is also Breitbart News  Senior Editor-at-Large.

Peter Schweizer is the President of the Government Accountability Institute and obviously a best-selling author. He is a partner in the Washington, D.C. firm Oval Office Writers which provides speechwriting and communications services for corporate executives and political figures.

From 2008-2009 he was a consultant to the Office of Presidential Speechwriting in the White House. He has also served as a member of the Ultraterrorism Study Group at the U.S. government’s Sandia National Laboratory and is a former consultant to NBC News.

Schweizer’s early work at Jeremiah Denton‘s National Forum Foundation (NFF) focused on major fronts in the Cold War. He co-authored a National Review article with Denton’s son, James “Murdering SDI”, about the suspicious deaths of several European officials who supported the Strategic Defense Initiative.  While at the NFF, Schweizer also published a report titled “The Meaning and Destiny of the Sandinista Revolution”.

In 2012, Steve Kroft used Schweizer’s work as the basis for a blockbuster report on CBS‘s 60 Minutes about Congressional insider trading. Titled “Insiders: The road to the STOCK act”, Kroft relied heavily on Schweizer’s reporting in Throw Them All Out, which CBS independently verified, to demonstrate how members of Congress trade stocks unethically.   The book demonstrates how politicians like Nancy Pelosi and Spencer Bachus have inoculated themselves against criminal charges for insider trading.   The following year, Kroft revisited Schweizer’s work to create another 60 Minutes report on how members of Congress use the funds of their political action committees for private gain.

A year later, Schweizer authored another GAI report about the Obama administration, which said that Obama failed to meet often enough with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius during the height of the botched roll-out of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).   He publicized the report with a story for Politico titled “When Barry Met Kathy: Almost never, it turns out.”  Schweizer’s report relied on publicly available information about Obama’s schedule. Three months later, after making a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request of non-public documents, The Hill found evidence of multiple meetings with both scheduled to attend, including seven specifically about the ACA.

I hope you can see from his bio that he is a very serious writer and one not given to innuendo.  All pronouncements are well researched and documented.

CLINTON CASH:

Now let’s take a look at the book itself.

  • “Clinton Cash”—The untold story of how and why foreign governments and businesses helped make Bill and Hillary rich.
  • Published by Harper Collins
  • Copyright: 2015
  • 256 Pages
  • Eleven (11) chapters as follows:
    • The Lincoln Bedroom Goes Global
    • The Transfer: Bill’s Excellent Kazaka Adventure
    • Hillary’s Reset: The Russian Uranium Deal
    • Indian Nukes: How to Win a Medal by Changing Hillary’s Mind
    • The Clinton Blur(I): Bill and Hillary’s Global Nexus of Philanthropy, Power and Profit
    • The Clinton Blur (II): The View from Foggy Bottom
    • Podium Economics: What Was Bill Being Paid For?
    • Warlord Economics: The Clintons Do Africa
    • Rainforest Riches:  Hillary, Bill and Colombian Timber and Oil Deals
    • Disaster Capitalism Clinton-Style: The 2010 Haitian Relief Effort
    • Quid pro Quo?

I am not going into detail relative to the contents of the book because I know my readers,and you are one intelligent group of people.  You can figure it out from the chapter titles.  I don’t think Mr. Schweizer’s book would have that much significance because after all, Bill and Hillary are nothing more than opportunistic political types, but she is running for President of the United States.  If you look at Benghasi, the e-mail server scandal AND the fact that Secretary Clinton is running for the White House, do we really need another Clinton in the Oval Office?  Then again, what about Mr. Donald Trump?  We really may be in a mell of a hess vice versa, as my grandmother Westbrook used to say. I may just be writing in Elvis again this year.

As always, I welcome your comments.


I have never presented to you a “re-blog” but the one written by Meagan Parrish below is, in my opinion, extremely important.  We all know the manufacturing sector has really taken a hit in the past few years due to the following issues and conditions:

  • Off-shoring or moving manufacturing operations to LCCs (low cost countries). Mexico, China, South Korea and other countries in the Pacific Rim have had an impact on jobs here in the United States.
  • Productivity gains in manufacturing. The ability of a manufacturer to economize and simply “do it better” requires fewer direct and indirect employees.
  • Robotic systems and automation of the factory floor has created a reduced need for hands-on assembly and production. This trend will only continue as IoT (Internet of Things) becomes more and more prominent.
  • Obvious forces reducing jobs in American manufacturing has been the growth in China’s economy and its exports of a large variety of cheap manufactured goods (which are a great boon to American and other consumers). Since China did not become a major player in world markets until after 1990, exports from China cannot explain the downward trend in manufacturing employment prior to that year, but Chinese exports were important in the declining trends in manufacturing during the past 20 years. More than three-fourths of all U.S. traded goods are manufactured products, so goods trade most directly affects manufacturing output.  Thus, increases in net exports (the trade balance) increase the demand for manufactured products, and increases in net imports (the trade deficit) reduce the demand for manufactured goods. The U.S. has run a goods trade deficit in every year since 1974 (U.S. Census Bureau 2015).
  • The recession cut jobs in all sectors of the American economy, but especially in factories and construction.
  • Manufacturers need fewer unskilled workers to perform rote tasks, but more highly skilled workers to operate the machines that automated those tasks. Manufacturers have substituted brains for brawn.
  • Trade Negotiations have to some degree left the United States on a non-level playing field. We simply have not negotiated producing results in our best interest.

Manufacturing employment as a fraction of total employment has been declining for the past half century in the United States and the great majority of other developed countries. A 1968 book about developments in the American economy by Victor Fuchs was already entitled The Service Economy. Although the absolute number of jobs in American manufacturing was rather constant at about 17 million from 1969 to 2002, manufacturing’s share of jobs continued to decline from about 28% in 1962 to only 9% in 2011.

Concern about manufacturing jobs has become magnified as a result of the sharp drop in the absolute number of jobs since 2002. Much of this decline occurred prior to the start of the Great Recession in 2008, but many more manufacturing jobs disappeared rapidly during the recession. Employment in manufacturing has already picked up some from its trough as the American economy experiences modest economic growth, and this employment will pick up more when growth accelerates.

As a result of the drop in manufacturing, many of our workers are on welfare as demonstrated by the following post written by Ms. Meagan Parrish.  Let’s take a brief look at her resume.  The post will follow.

MEAGAN PARRISH BIO:

Meagan Parrish kicked off her career at Advantage Business Media as Chem.Info’s intrepid editor in December 2014. Prior to this role, she spent 12 years working in the journalism biz, including a four-and-a-half year stint as the managing editor of BRAVA, a regional magazine based in Madison, Wis. Meagan graduated from UW-Madison with a degree in international relations and spent a year working toward a master’s in international public policy. She has a strong interest in all things global — including energy, economics, politics and history. As a news junkie, she thinks it’s an exciting time to be working in the world of chemical manufacturing.

PARRISH POST:

Study: One-Third Of Manufacturing Workers Use Welfare Assistance

There was a time when factory jobs lifted millions U.S. workers out of poverty. But according to new data, today’s wages aren’t even enough to support the lives of 1 in 3 manufacturing employees.

The study, conducted by the University of California, Berkeley, found that about one-third of manufacturing workers seek government assistance in the form of food stamps, healthcare subsidies, tax credits for the poor or other forms of welfare to offset low wages.

This amounts to about 2 million workers, and between 2009 and 2013, the cost for assisting these workers added up to $10.2 billion per year.

What’s more, the amount of employees on assistance shoots up 50 percent when temporary workers are included. In fact, the use of temp workers, who can be paid less and offered limited benefits, is one of the main reasons why the overall wages picture looks bleak for manufacturing.

“In decades past, production workers employed in manufacturing earned wages significantly higher than the U.S. average, but by 2013 the typical manufacturing production worker made 7.7 percent below the median wage for all occupations,” said Ken Jacobs, chair of the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, in the paper.

“The reality is the production jobs are increasingly coming to resemble fast-food or Wal-Mart jobs,” Jacobs said.

By comparison, the number of fast-food workers who rely on public assistance is about 52 percent.

Oregon was named as the state that has the highest number of factory workers using food stamps, while Mississippi and Illinois lead the country in states needing healthcare assistance. When all forms of government subsidies were factored in, the states with the most manufacturing workers needing help were Mississippi, Georgia, California and Texas.

The research found that the median wage for non-supervisory manufacturing jobs was $15.66 in 2013, while one-fourth of the workers were making $11.91, and many more make less.

CNBC report on the study detailed the struggles of a single mom working as an assembler at a Detroit Chassis plant in Ohio for $9.50 an hour. She often doesn’t get full 40-hour work weeks and said she has to rely on food stamps, Medicaid and other government programs.

“I absolutely hate being on public assistance,” she said. “You constantly have people judging you.”

The report comes as debate about the minimum wage heats up in the presidential race. Raising the federal minimum wage to $15 has been a chief platform issue for Democratic presidential hopeful, Bernie Sanders. Presumptive Republican candidate Donald Trump has also shown support for lifting wages to some degree.

The findings have also added a sour note to recent good news about jobs in the U.S. Recently, the White House was boasting about improvements in the economy and cited a government report showing that about 232,000 new positions were created during the past 12 months.

CONCLUSIONS: MY THOUGHTS

To me this statistic is shameful.  We are talking about the “working poor”. Honest people who cannot provide for their families on the wages they earn or with the skill-sets they have.  Please note, I’m not proposing a raise in the minimum wage.  I honestly feel that must be left to individual states and companies within each state to make that judgment.  I feel the following areas must be addressed by the next president:

  • Revamp the corporate and individual tax code. What we have is an abomination!
  • Review ALL trade agreements made over the past twenty (20) years. Let’s level the playing field if at all possible.
  • Eliminate red tape producing huge barriers to individuals wishing to start companies. When it comes to North American or Western European manufacturing, there are certainly more regulatory barriers to entry.
  • Review all regulations, yes environmental also, that block productive commerce.
  • Overbearing regulations can give too much power to a few, and potentially corrupt ruling regime and prevent innovative ideas from flourishing. It can perhaps be an obstacle for a foreign nation to invest in a country due to those conditions and regulations which increase costs. (The fact that some of these regulations are usually for the benefit for the people of that nation poses another problem.
  • We have a huge skills gap in this country. Skills needed to drive high-tech companies and process MUST be improved.  This is an immediate need.
  • Beijing signaled with its currency devaluationthat the domestic economic slowdown it has failed to reverse is no longer a problem confined within China’s borders. It is now the world’s problem, too.  This problem must be addressed by the next administration.
  • Companies need to review their labor policies and do so quickly and with fairness. I’m of the opinion that people are almost universally the best judges of their own welfare, and should generally see to their own welfare (including continuing skill improvement and education), but I’m not in any way opposed to market based loans and even some limited amount of public funding for re-education of indigent non-productive workers (although charity & private sources would be a first choice for me).

 

As always, I welcome your comments.

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